Don't turn on the radio in Boston or New York this weekend.
If you do, you'll be maddened by the sound of Red Sox and Mets fans decrying their teams. Dyed-in-the-wool baseball vets of those two cities are convinced they carry around with them clouds of terrible luck, and this week's events didn't do anything to convince them otherwise.
The Sox were riding high after a four-game sweep in Chicago, a full eight games up on the hated Yankees and headed to the Bronx to put the nail in the Pinstripers' coffin. Three days later, having dropped a troika of decidedly un-October-like games, Boston is five up with a month to play, and the sons of Bill Buckner are positive their team is about to cough up the AL East.
In Queens, Met fans are lighting candles for Mookie Wilson, begging for an intervention, after losing four straight in Philly. The team lost Thursday's finale in particularly excruciating fashion: New York rallied for five in the eighth against a who's-who of washed-up Phillies relievers (J.C. Romero, Antonio Alfonseca and Jose Mesa...Mitch Williams must not have been available) to take an unexpected 10-8 lead. The Phillies scored once in the bottom of the eighth, then rallied for two in the ninth off Billy Wagner to take their fourth straight and narrow the NL East to two games.
Two of baseball's most fatalistic franchises have been given substantive reasons to look grave-ward, and wonder when the dirt will start caving in on them, but it says here that both the Mets and Sox will win their respective divisions. Boston has a laughable schedule from this point forward (including seven against Baltimore, six against Tampa Bay, six against Toronto and two against Oakland; only seven of their remaining 28 games are against winning teams, and by the time they play four against the Twins late in September, Minnesota may be sub-.500 as well), and will survive Manny Ramriez's oblique strain. The Mets have to deal with the Phillies once more and the Braves twice, but they also have six each against the Nationals and Marlins, plus they should get Pedro Martinez back soon.
Will the Mets/Sox series I predicted back in April still happen? Mm, maybe not, though I have to stick to my prediction guns. But both of these self-loathing franchises will still be playing in October.
Fun match-up in Berkeley this weekend. Would you be shocked if the Volunteers could go into Cal and take a second straight upset over the highly-rated Golden Bears?
Bodog Bookmakers, Bodog.com: I'd be incredibly shocked if the Golden Bears (-6) are upset by the Volunteers (+6) again, as last season's embarrassment is still fresh in Cal's minds. The Golden Bears aren't going to let a repeat happen this year, as last season's defeat in Knoxville left them out of the title picture. Cal has 16 starters returning from last year, including stud quarterback Nate Longshore who threw for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2006, and DeSean Jackson, who is widely considered the top receiver in the country. Added to the fact that the Golden Bears are playing at home -- where they went 8-0 last season -- they will have all they need against the Volunteers, who might be without their top quarterback Erik Ainge. Ainge broke his pinky finger earlier this week, and if he's unable to go, the Vols will look to backup Jonathon Crompton.
Milwaukee is through blowing its NL Central lead...now the Diamondbacks seem to be preparing to blow the NL West. Who wins those two divisions?
BDB, Bodog.com: These are two perfect examples of how experience wins out over non-experience more often than not in Major League Baseball. The Brewers looked like they had all the pieces in place and were going to make their first postseason appearance in 25 years, but the starting rotation fell apart. Ben Sheets went down with another injury and the rest of the staff couldn't shoulder the extra weight. I would look for the Cubs to hold on, and even strengthen their lead in the Central. Their starting rotation has been the key, and while other NL contenders have struggled to fill out their rotation, the Cubs haven't needed to fill a spot since May 22. Another advantage the Cubbies have over their divisional rivals is Lou Piniella, who can pass his pennant-race experience on to his players. Experience isn't something that Brewers manager Ned Yost can offer. In the Diamondbacks' case, they still have a chance to hold off the surging P adres. Arizona has been incredibly streaky all season long. Even though they are suffering through a particularly bad streak, they have a veteran pitching staff that should right itself soon. If not, the Padres, behind Jake Peavy and future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux, will continue their march to the West title.
With the NFL season starting soon, give me a couple season win-total wagers that look interesting to you, and that maybe have attracted more betting interest than others.
BDB, Bodog.com: The first one that jumps out at me is the Detroit Lions at Over 6½ (-140); they will have a Mike-Martz-run offence capable of putting up huge numbers. Martz must be drooling at the thought of having premier WR Roy Williams and rookie stud Calvin Johnson lining up on each side of the field. If the defense can make a few stops, the Lions could finish as high as 9-7. I'm also going to go with the other worst team in the league last year, the Oakland Raiders, at Under 5 (+130). I'm not sure who, but someone at NFL headquarters has it in for the Raiders, who have the toughest 2007 schedule in the league. Part of this comes from being in a division with the Chiefs, Broncos and of course the ultra-talented San Diego Chargers, but Oakland doesn't just play those tough six games against their division rivals. They also play a game each versus last year's Super Bowl combatants, the Colts and the Bears. The Raiders will be hard- pressed to win the six games required to cover the Over.
Does the betting public get into the U.S. Open of tennis? How does the handle for that event compare to other tennis events? Who does the public seem to like?
BDB, Bodog.com: The U.S. Open does solid but not spectacular numbers. It's better than all of tennis's non-majors, but falls behind the other Grand Slam events in terms of handle. Most bettors are turning their sights to football. Roger Federer is far and away the people's choice even at 1-2 odds. Federer will remain the people's choice until he shows some sign of weakness.